Saturday, May 26, 2012

Anthology Breakdown: Paris, je t'aime

The concept of Anthology Breakdown is simple: instead of reviewing an anthology film as one cohesive movie (which is the initial intention) I review and grade each individual vignette. For today’s post, the focus is Paris, je t'aime, a whimsical collection of 18 short films, each set in a different arrondissement in the City of Light.


Montmarte           
Dir. by Bruno Podalydès
Director Podalydès plays a man sitting in his car, amusing himself with brief narrative stories of the women who walk by. After an attractive woman takes a tumble next to his car, he helps her into his back seat. They engage in polite, non-too-memorable conversation, and he offers to drive her to her doctor’s appointment. There’s nothing wrong with the segment, per se, but there’s nothing to make it stand out, either. B-

Quais de Seine 
Dir. by Gurinder Chadha
A kind, young white man witnesses a kind, young Muslim woman fall over and, despite having his balls busted by his immature friends, decides to go help her up. They talk amicably, and soon after she leaves, he runs after her. I like this one a lot, particularly its unexpected conclusion. B+

Le Marais
Dir. by Gus Van Sant
A young French guy describes to another young guy how fascinating he finds him. The one-way conversation is straightforward and simple, and it isn’t until the French guy leaves that we realize what was really going on. Delightful in that perfect Van Sant way. B+

Tuileries
Dir. by Joel and Ethan Coen
A wordless Steve Buscemi sits in a metro station and is pestered by a handful of bored and/or angry Parisians. This segment works so well for two reasons: the many expressions of Steve Buscemi’s face, and the way the Coen brothers use editing to evoke humor. Easily the most hilarious short of the lot. A-

Loin du 16e
Dir. by Walter Salles and Daniela Thomas
Catalina Sandino Moreno plays a young immigrant who wakes up before dawn, takes her baby to daycare, takes multiple trains to a rich home, only to babysit their child. I’m simplifying the beauty of this segment because it is just that: beautiful, and should be witnessed firsthand. But also, due to Moreno’s endlessly emotive face, it is rather heartbreaking. This short just makes me wish Moreno was in more movies. A

Porte de Choisy
Dir. by Christopher Doyle
In one of the more “out there” segments, director Doyle, most famous as the renowned cinematographer for Wong Kar-wai’s films, casts director Barbet Schroeder as a beauty products salesman who wins the business of a tough salon owner. There are a few things taking place here that don’t make logical sense, but I believe that is precisely Doyle’s point. Either way, it looks fantastic. B-

Bastille
Dir. by Isabel Coixet
A middle-aged man sits in a café, waiting for his wife to join him. Once she arrives, he plans on telling her that he’s leaving her for his young mistress. What follows is, to be perfectly frank, far too tender, moving, and honest to reveal here. Bastille is a perfect way to spend six minutes. A

Place des Victoires
Dir. by Nobuhiro Suwa
Juliette Binoche sits alone, grieving for her recently deceased son. Her husband and daughter’s kind words do nothing for her. She gets up the courage to leave her home one night, and what follows is as majestic and moving as anything you’ll find in all of Paris je’taime. The final shot of this short, which is of Binoche’s poignant face, is astonishing in its subtlety. If only Ingmar Bergman were alive to make movies with Juliette Binoche, the wonder that would follow. A+

Tour Eiffel
Dir. by Sylvain Chomet
A cute, simple tale in which a young, nerdy boy tells the story of how is mime parents met. The film is amusing in that The Triplets of Belleville kind of way (which is, perhaps, Chomet’s best film to date), but there’s not a whole lot of substance here to make it anything more than that. B-

Parc Monceau
Dir. by Alfonso Cuarón
Nick Nolte walks with his daughter (Ludivine Sagnier) down a long, straight street. They discuss life, parenting, smoking, and an infamous person named Gaspard, who Sagnier does not think will approve of her burly old man. Simple, clear-cut, with an unexpected reveal at the end. Oh, and this being a Cuarón film, it is shot in one long extended take, which is flawless. A-

Quartier des Enfants Rouges
Dir. by Oliver Assayas
While on location shooting a period costume drama, an American actress (Maggie Gyllenhaal) buys some particularly strong hashish from a curious dealer. If there’s a reason to enjoy Assayas’ segment, it is Gyllenhaal’s eyes, which, in the span of six minutes go from cold to irritated to despondent to stoned to longing. She’s incredible here. B+

Place des fêtes
Dir. by Oliver Schmitz
Another one of my favorites, and one of the few vignettes that plays with narrative structure, is about a gentle African man asking a paramedic to go on a date with him. Why is he so infatuated with her? Why is she giving him medical treatment? All will be revealed in due time. A

Pigalle
Dir. by Richard LaGravenese
An older man (Bob Hoskins) tries to pick up an older woman in a peep show establishment, before we realize that the two are a bored, married couple trying to add some spice to their relationship. Hoskins is, as always, mischievous and brilliant. The surprise he has in store for his lovely bride is honest and tender in all the best ways. B+

Quartier de la Madeleine 
Dir. by Vincenzo Natali
Paris je t’aime’s only real failure is this vampire short featuring Elijah Wood and Olga Kuryleno. Wood plays a tourist walking down a cold, isolated street who stumbles across a vampire draining her latest prey. I suppose fans of Natali’s work (Cube, Splice) could find enjoyment here, but the segment is simply too out of place. D+

Père-Lachaise
Dir. by Wes Craven
While wandering through the famed Père-Lachaise Cemetery, a well-to-do, soon to be married couple bicker about the man’s lack of humor. The woman (a perfectly in-type Emily Mortimer) soon tells her fiancé (a perfectly against type Rufus Sewell) that she can’t marry him. Heads are cracked, the ghost of Oscar Wilde (played humorously by director Alexander Payne) shows up, and the resolve of the short is nothing less than appropriately whimsical. A

Faubourg Saint-Denis
Dir. by Tom Tykwer
Bringing the same manic energy he brought to Run Lola Run, Tom Tykwer tells the story of a blind French student who falls for a feisty young actress (Natalie Portman). Most of the short is sped up, cut extremely quickly, and narrated similarly to Victor’s trek across Europe. Portman has a ball here. She makes it worth it. B+

Quartier Latin
Dir. by Gérard Depardieu and Frédéric Auburtin
When Ben Gazzara died, I chose to reflect on his work in this short instead of the many other more famous performances he put out during his impeccable career. Why? Because what he and Gena Rowlands do here is one of the best encapsulations of old, lost love that I’ve ever seen. The way they speak to one another. Their candor and regret… ah, it’s just marvelous. A

14e arrondissement
Dir. by Alexander Payne
Saving the best for last is Alexander Payne’s six minute masterpiece, 14e arrondissement. Throughout the segment, a mail carrier from Denver (a perfect Margo Martindale) walks around Paris by herself while narrating her adventures in crude French.

She wines, she dines, she walks and let’s herself be amazed by the beauty of it all. The majority of the wonder in this segment comes in its closing minute, in which Martindale concludes her monologue with the best words Payne has ever penned. The short is so moving and sincere and endearing. It brings me to tears everytime. Complete bliss. A+

Epilogue
Dir. by Frédéric Auburtin
No one ever makes mention of the brief epilogue that ends the film, which is a real shame, as it contains two of the best moments in the entire movie. The first is Binoche and Rowlands sharing a silent toast from separate apartment buildings, followed by Gazzara and Hoskins meeting up with each other in a bar. Both are remarkable moments of kindness that highlight the best of what Paris je t’aime has to offer.

23 comments:

  1. Oh I love this film. I guess my most favourite is the Tom Tykwer one, but I love the Van Sant, Coen Bros, Cuaron, Schmitz, Craven, Depardiue and Payne ones too. And yes, the Elijah Wood vampire thing was messed up.
    I think I actually cried in the last segment. Must go to Paris.
    Great post :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks! That final segment just floors me every time. Every. Time. So much greatness here.

      Delete
  2. Wow, I actually liked that Elijah Wood short. The Cuaron short was my least favorite despite its technical brilliance. My favorite short was the one by Sylvain Chomet.

    Others that I loved were by the Alexander Payne, Wes Craven, the Coen Brothers, and Tom Tykwer. In fact, I have a longer version of that Tykwer short in my external hard drive.

    This is a really good anthology film. Avoid New York, I Love You. There's only a few good shorts there but a lot of it is terrible and don't really stand out visually.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. That wood short is just so random to me. Even when I view it as its own film, it's just so... meh. I dunno, I have a few friends that absolutely love it. So to each his own, I suppose.

      I plan on covering New York, I Love You on this blog soon. But yeah, most of the reviews will not be positive.

      Delete
  3. This is a great anthology, I must see it again. Loving this anthology series.

    Have you seen the 2007 anthology Chacun son cinema? It's very much like Paris, Je t'aime, except I like it better. There's a simply marvellous short by Lars von Trier that is one of the funniest things I've seen. Make sure you see the whole anthology.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. The von Trier short Occupations is a classic. There's so many good shorts there from David Lynch, the Coen Brothers, Roman Polanski, Abbas Kiarostami, David Cronenberg, and several others.

      Delete
    2. I really want to get ahold of this ASAP. I've tried to find the whole thing online, but no luck just yet. Only a few segments here and there.

      Delete
    3. I've been trying to find the film through torrents and various places but it's unavailable. Luckily, I have a copy of the film in my hard drive. I'm not sure how to send it to you but I really want you to check it out.

      Delete
    4. Hmm, maybe Drop Box? Do you have an account? I can send you an invite and all's you have to do is go to the website and upload the file, then I can access it. Problem is, I can only use 2GB of space at a time. How big is the movie file?

      Delete
    5. About 1.45 GB w/ a subtitle file that can be used on a VLC thing.

      Delete
    6. I just signed up for a Drop Box account. It's going to take a while to upload. I'll let you know when it's done.

      Delete
    7. Ok perfect. My email is withrowag@gmail.com, if you want to set up a shared folder and invite me to it. This is gonna be awesome man, thanks so much.

      Delete
    8. Is there any way you guys could let me in on this? I've been dying to get a hold of this!

      Delete
    9. Ah sorry man, I got rid of it a long time ago. It's a damn shame this thing is so hard to find.

      Delete
  4. This is such an amazing way of reviewing the film - wonderful stuff!

    ReplyDelete
  5. Nice, breakdown,Alex.I love the shorts by Coen Brothers and Sylvain Chomet the most,and agree on the D grade you gave to the vampire short,it just does not fit in the anthology.

    I remember their next project is in Asia? Hongkong or Shanghai or some other place.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Apparently Rio, Eu Te Amo is in some stage of the process. I can't find out if it has been filmed, is stuck in preproduction or stuck in distribution. We shall see!

      Delete
  6. Paris, je t'aime is one of my favorite movies- although it is an anthology and it doesn't have character or story development, I still think it's a magic movie in its own simplicity and reality.
    My favorite pieces are Quais de Seine, Le Marais (maybe because they feature young, sweet love) and the 14e arrondisment, with Pere- Lachaise close by. I also like Tuileries, Loin du 16e and Place des fetes.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I love your top three picks. Love young can be tough to pull off without seeming like a dumb RomCom, you know? 14e arrondisment...ah, just heavenly.

      Delete
  7. You are going to make me watch this as well aren't you ??

    I made it look like a bad thing but believe me, it's not. It is one of thousands of movies I really want to watch, just haven't gotten around to it.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Ha I feel you man! Best thing you can do is take it one at a time. There's no rush, the movies will always be here.

      Delete
  8. Now on Netflix. Go see it!!!

    ReplyDelete